We stayed in Poole at the RNLI college for the two days before the cruise which was great and just an hour from the port. Excellent accommodation and food, with great views.
On the Sunday we drove around to Southampton and arrived at about 11.15. Being at the Mayflower we checked in straight away choosing the queue for wheelchairs as this was the short one, nice having a choice! We passed the security and into the large room to await the boarding time. We had got an upgrade to a suite so we could go to the area set aside with coffee cakes and papers. Boarding started at about 12.00 and we were taken on first as suite passengers. Of course this was slowed down with there only being one lift for wheelchairs and scooters, this took an extra 7 minutes to board, (an absolute disgrace, who do I write to). Once on board we were directed to the Oriental Restaurant, for free champagne and a buffet. Our butler soon found us and said he would come when the cabins were ready. We eventually went with him up to the cabin at about 13.30. We could have gone sooner but when free champagne is on offer one does not rush.
The cabin was large with a separate sleeping room which is divided from the room with a glass door and a curtain. This was very useful with the 24 hour daylight we were to have in the cruise. There was a large coffee table, two armchairs and a large couch, 2 TV's all all the other usual stuff. And of course there was a bottle of champagne and a box of chocolates.
After our drill we went out on to deck 7 for the sailaway and more free champagne, can anyone see a thread here. Arcadia had been on QE terminal and went off in front of us and we passed Oceana in Ocean terminal and she followed us out.
We started the cruise as we meant to go on and the butler came back at 5.45 to pour our G&Ts, a long standing cruise tradition, the G&T's not the butler. At about 7.15 I went down to bag my seat at the bar in the Lords Tavern. This is our 2nd G&T time. As usual at the bar the same people would come each evening at about the same time so another group of people to get to know.
As ever we had a table for 8 in second sitting. This was in the Peninsular restaurant, the first time we had been in a middle restaurant on either Oriana or Aurora. We met our table companions and once again we scored. We had a great table. There were 3 David's and a Steve, and a Linda, Margaret, Jo, and Chrissie. After a couple of days we were like old friends.
The food was of the same excellent standard as ever, especially the excellent fish & chips. Which 6 of the 8 people on the table had. I know some people have complained about fish and chips even being on the menu but I find that you cannot eat full meals every night on a long cruise and it made a very pleasant change. The waiters were very friendly and efficient. Oh and the food was HOT.
We soon settled into our routine with breakfast being taken in the cabin some days, that is full breakfast served by the butler. On other days we went up to Al Fresco. Or Al's as we call it. Following our tradition I had no lunch in the MDR but occasionally I had the mushroom croissant in Tiffanys. I often went here for my coffee and found the service to be excellent. We were disturbed a couple of times by quizzes as there was tennis on in the pub.
As we moved north it got a little cooler and when we were in Stavanger it was a little windy, definitely a day for a fleece. We had arranged to meet two friends who were on Oceana, who was following us around. We had coffee overlooking the harbour. We sat outside, being brave and then the waitress pushed a button, the awning came down and there were heaters underneath and we were as warm as toast. The coffee was good, a touch expensive but not as much as I had thought. We had a lovely chat and then moved on. As the day wore on it got warmer and the wind died down, I had to take off my fleece.
We had the first sail away of the cruise and it was very good with the Ents staff doing their thing on the pool side. Oceana was parked back to back with us and they were joining in with our sail away, which I think was a bit of a cheek. Go and get your own, I say. Must be P&O cuts 2 ships 1 sail away party. :)
On then to Olden a port we had been to before, not a lot there but the scenery was spectacular. We wandered all through the village and out the other end past the school and on round the end of the fjord. I got some good shots of Oriana tied up and Oceana, still following us, at anchor. She was tendering and when we got back on there were long queues for the tenders. I think 3 coaches had just come back from a trip. Interestingly we had dropped one of our tenders and were helping ferry their passengers back to the ship. The weather in Olden was lovely, warm and no wind.
The next day we were in Alesund, again very pleasant weather and we wandered about. We had lunch in the museum of Art Nouveaux. It was quite expensive but plenty of coffee. This is an interesting little port with a number of things to look at. It had a small shopping mall and we find it interesting to look at the prices. We always just look as we rarely buy anything when cruising. We generally end up with money left over.
Then we moved further north to Trondheim, as you would expect the weather got, well warmer, now up to 19c. We got the shuttle bus in which was accessible for my scooter if a little hairy getting on. We started at the Cathedral and worked our way down the town towards the ship. In the central square we sat outside and had lunch of pizza and coffee, which came with a refil. The pizza was £20 but very large so we had half each. I got the impression this was common practice. Lots of time for people watching, all very friendly. I worked out that it was not far to walk back to the ship so we set off. Then the rain came, well it is Norway. It was fairly light and after stopping for another coffee we got back without much concern. There was a long bridge over the railway station which gave access from the dock to the town. An easy walk.
After that we had a nice sea day 29th June. On our way north we had to change our course so that the satellite could be seen by the dish as the funnel was in the way. After the Lions rugby match we returned to the normal course.
North again to Honningsvaag. There is not a lot there. However in the morning the weather was brilliant, 20c and no wind. So we went for a wander and saw 2 reindeer. Being a Sunday did not help of course. Then the rain started. Good job the ship was so close and the village small. Of course the main point of being here was to take a trip to the North Cape, the most northerly point of mainland Europe.
So we are on our way south now and we leave Honningsvaag at about 20.00, no early departure here. We actually have to go north to go past North Cape. The Captain is going to take us close in for a good view. He does tell us the ocean is very deep at this point, can't think why he would need to tell us. The fog descended and we could see nothing. Well that is until 23.30 when a hole appeared in the fog and there it was the most northerly point of mainland Europe. On the top of the sheer cliff is a huge globe or from our viewpoint a pin prick on top of this near 1000ft cliff. Our latitude is 71 10' 21" north. And in the port in the morning it had been 20c. It was an amazing site with the cliff towering over the ship in that clearing in the fog in a dull daylight at midnight. We saw the flashes of cameras high above us as those on the top took pictures of Oriana as we took pictures of them. We put the fact that the fog cleared down to the fact that Captain Camby clearly walks on water.
The next day we were in Tromso and a shuttle definitely needed as the town centre is a couple of mile away. I had some difficulty as the shuttles were service buses and nowhere for my scooter. We did see one with a ramp but after my experience in Trondheim I decided to have a lazy day on the ship. The weather was again excellent well in to the early 20's and so we found a good spot by the terrace bar and soaked up some sun. The Ents staff then proceeded to give us a lively send off from Tromso. They do work hard and in all that heat. It was the Great British sailaway, a novel idea. Flags and Jerusalem with a bit of Tom Jones and Rod Stewart thrown in.
We now had a days sailing to get to our next port. I do not go to many shows but my wife wanted me to say something as she felt that the Headliners group had been excellent. She enjoyed a number of shows sitting in the front row and felt as if she was in the West End. One of the Headliners, Carl De Marco, did a couple of his solo shows and she enjoyed those immensely. I did go and see Maurice Grumbleweed. It took me back 35 years to the Isle of Man when we saw the group. They were brilliant then and his show, somewhat less frantic was equally as good. A very professional entertainer, with a good voice a quick wit and the ability to play his instrument.
The reason why I went to the shows was because the casino, my usual haunt was as quiet as the grave most nights. I have never seen a casino so quiet. In fact it was far too large for the people using it. Anyone who knows Oriana will be aware that she has the smallest casino in the fleet by a long way.
I have not mentioned yet the long days, for much of the cruise we were above the Article Circle with its 24 hour daylight. Fantastic to be out on deck between 12 and 1 and still light. In fact I got some fantastic sunsets with amazing colours. Each one slightly different. But of course they were not sunsets as the sun never went below the horizon. The other weird thing was that it was so warm even at the North Cape at midnight. The lack of wind was the main factor.
Gieranger was the next stop, I hesitate to call it a port as the settlement itself Is tiny and appears only to be there to service the cruise industry. Having said that it was the most spectacular port of all, as any who has been there will testify. You may know that it is a tender port and possibly the easiest to use, the water was perfectly still and the sun beating down. The way you get to the tender on Oriana was the best i have encountered as you just took the lift down to deck 3 and drove straight out to the tender. on other ships at least 2 lifts were needed.
The local authorities have it well sorted at their end as well with a number of separate jetties to deal with each ship at anchor. With us on that day were a large MSC ship and an old friend to some, Artemis now working for a German company with the name Artania. Must have saved a lot of money only having to change 3 letters. The tender ride was short and smooth and getting off was easy. Of course my scooter went with me. The town of Gieranger was tiny with one main street of at least 8 shops. Some had grass roofs, they needed cutting. There was also a fairly large hotel. On the bus trip later the guide thought it a monstrosity. It took all of 10 minutes to see everything. That was with dawdling. We had booked on a trip at 12.15 up a mountain so we had a coffee and sat. The coach arrived and the very helpful driver put my scooter in the luggage hold under the coach.
So up the mountain we went with over 100 hairpin bends and a climb of over 5000ft it was interesting. The guide was Leonardo, an Italian nut who lived in Belgium the rest of the year. He was quite a wit, did not like the Germans and told jokes, with the Swedes being the butt of them. The drive was truly spectacular to the roof of Norway. The last mile or so had been built by the villagers as a tourist attraction. It worked. One or two people had been quite nervous on the way up, not a surprise. On the top it was cold!!!!! But fantastic views. A pit stop was made on the way down.
The sail out from Gieranger was the best. Our balcony was well used here.
So now off to Bergen. It lived up to its reputation and in the morning it rained. Interestingly with all the current discussions the captain announced the night before that they were going to change the departure time. We got an extra hour. We were intending to go up the funicular railway, that did not happen. We scootered around town for a couple of hours, looking at the fish market and the old houses of the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf area. Being Bergan the sailaway was a little damp and was cancelled.
We returned home with two sea days over the smoothest North Sea I have ever seen, and I live by the North Sea. Mill pond was not in it. There were more people out sunbathing than I have seen in the Med.
Overall an excellent cruise, good ship, brilliant crew, good entertainment and good company. What else could you want.